Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Plume Books
I wasn’t familiar with Phoebe Robinson until after I read this book so I went into it without any idea of who she is and what she does.
You Can’t Touch My Hair provides a fascinating insight into a black woman’s life and the obstacles she has to navigate daily. The meaning of hair and how hair culture is very much a thing that one cannot understand unless one is part of the community.
Robinson talks about the politics of race and gender which informs every person’s daily experiences whether positively or negatively. I most remember her anecdote of being on a reality TV show as a female comedian and the disparate and discriminatory ways in which she was treated–she is not just a woman but she is a black woman which changes things quite substantially.
What also struck me was Robinson’s experience with her previous agent who treated her badly but Robinson, due to the conditioning she has received all her life as a black woman, was unable to speak out until the person went too far.
I enjoyed this book and yes, sometimes the humour read a bit too American for my tastes but on the whole, the book gives an interesting and valuable narrative on gender and race in contemporary America.
So I’ve read some books (*snort* understatement) and I figure I may as well do short reviews for them because why not?
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew and Chu Hing
This one is a retelling or reimagination of sorts of an old comic book series which had a short run due to lack of readers. Yang talks at length about how the identity of the original Shadow Hero is kept secret as in the original he is always resolutely turned away from the reader so his face is never visible giving rise to the suspicion that though his skin tone is that of a Caucasian, the comic book artist definitely wanted him to be Chinese. Speculation aside, this new retelling is solid both in its art and the story it tells. I liked it quite a bit.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and translated by Katherine Woods
So I know this is a classic and most people really love this but for some reason, I had a vastly mediocre reaction to this. If I’m going to be completely honest, the little prince annoyed the heck out of me with this judging, patronizing ways. White privilege aside, there’s a skein of colonial discourse running through it where things (in this case nature and roses) are said to only have meaning when they are “tamed.” And yes, I’m probably simplifying the “message” but being told you can not mean something to yourself, you have to mean something to someone else to be good or have any kind of worth is well, rubbish. So meh to this.
The Seat of Magic by J. Kathleen Cheney
I had been anticipating this sequel quite eagerly because the previous one had ended at such an intriguing place. The sequel lived up to my expectations mostly and gave readers a closer, more piercing look at the fantastical Portuguese people and culture in the book. The worldbuilding is solid and so is the writing. The characterizations are on point as well. If I had any complaints, it would be that the spotlight shines a bit too strongly on romance. When there is one couple in the book that is fine but when brothers and sisters of the main couple start finding love with each other, there is a danger that the book can seem campy or even cheesy and I think this book is too fine to go that route. We’ll see.
The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon
This book is so fantastic. It follows a half-Japanese woman who is sometimes beset by these urges to do terrible things which erode her confidence as a person, as a good person. She never actually does anything but the scenarios that play out in her mind are terrible and she’s terrified that some day she’s going to slip and actually do some of the things she thinks about. Running concurrently is a story about this Nothing who was half turned into a tree and whose promise to bring back a wife is what will finally set him free from the monstrous form he has been given. The art is fantastic and the book is curiously philosophical but maintains a more positive outlook than one would think considering the premise.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
I really enjoyed this book on a very cerebral level. The title is not wrong–this book will mostly appeal to those who like slower paced books that take a long time getting to the point and enjoy exploring the details of worldbuilding and magic systems. This is a portal adventure and focuses on a grad student who goes through a graveyard into a world where she meets a beautiful woman, her incredibly handsome son and lands into a life of adventure and romance. Only all that is a sham as the beautiful woman is a fae and everything is Glamour. She is rescued by a gruff magician and finds out that she is not even in her own world now but in one where the status of women is somewhere nearer to the slop pile than to actual human being. The book does not shy away from portraying the realistic elements of a different world in a different time but rather than being overwhelmed by the nitty grittiness of it all, you learn to appreciate the subtler turns in the narrative. I enjoyed this quite a bit and cannot wait to read the sequel whenever it comes out.
So Beyonce dropped her surprise album this past week and in one of her tracks (Flawless), she features Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk. My friend Yash linked it on her FB and once I watched it and listened to her speak so eloquently the truths we, and not just women, need to hear, understand and implement in our lives, I thought I’d like to share the goodness. It’s a bit long at 30 minutes but trust me, every single minute of it is worth listening to. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you have any to share. Anyway, here’s the talk: